I realize we have been in some deep waters with the topic of forgiveness but hopefully you have found it helpful to reflect upon this topic. There’s yet another angle from which we must explore the topic of forgiveness and that is the forgiveness of one’s self. It’s been said that the person we find it most difficult to forgive is the one in the mirror. Has that been your experience. We have all done some things that we are not proud of and we can really beat ourselves up over the shame and guilt of it all. It’s as if we walk around feeling miserable because we don’t deserve to have happiness or peace after what we have done. Perhaps we still carry around guilt over how we treated a parent or loved one, especially if that person is no longer here and we never had a chance to make amends.
One of the things my grandfather instilled in me as a child is the importance of treating people right while they are still here so that I would not be loaded down with guilt after they are no longer around. That lesson has served me well but it certainly didn’t preclude me from making some huge mistakes that impacted my relationships with loved ones. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I have apologized to my parents for the hurt caused by my younger (and ignorant) self. My parents have been very gracious in extending forgiveness to me but self-forgiveness has been an entirely different story. Getting over the guilt and shame of some of those things has been a process. I remember a time I felt so insecure about myself as a person that I could barely look people in the eye while talking with them. It was hard for me to not be critical and judgmental of others because I felt so horrible about myself but that’s how it usually works.
The most unforgiving and bitter people you will ever meet are the ones who have not yet learned to let themselves off the hook. They see themselves as deficient or inadequate so they attempt to elevate themselves by bringing others down a peg or two. It doesn’t help matters when you were raised in an atmosphere where there were many rigid expectations and very little room for honest mistakes. So what do we do with this tendency we learned (at an early age) to be hard on ourselves and hard on others? We have to “Let it Go.” Can you hear that song by Elsa from the movie Frozen going through your minds? I do. Her version of letting it go though was shutting everyone out, repressing her feelings, and living in isolation due to her inability to stop turning things into ice when she touched them. I’m not talking about that type of letting it go. I’m talking about easing up on that person in the mirror who has made some mistakes (even huge ones) out of ignorance. That person in the mirror didn’t know any better at the time although age and experience has left him/her with 20/20 hindsight. Yes, that person would have totally done things differently if only he/she had known then what they know now…but they realize what they were doing at the time. Will you cut that person in the mirror some slack today? They really need your forgiveness. That will help you implement the tips from the previous blogs on this subject. It’s been said that “Hurt people, hurt people.” Did you catch that? The “woundedness” (I know that’s not really a word but let it be for today’s purposes, okay? Please?) in us causes us to hurt others sometimes without even realizing why.
I’ll never forget going to the apartment of some friends who had recently adopted a cat. This cat had been severely abused so it certainly wasn’t very friendly. After hearing about this fact, I attempted to pet this cat (out of compassion) and, before I knew it, she scratched the living daylights out of me. My first inclination was to put an end to one of those 9 lives but I relented. The cat had been abused so it misinterpreted my intentions, and it reacted. We come across people every day that have been deeply hurt and guess what? Sometimes it come out in their actions and reactions. We need to give ourselves (and others) some grace when we are having an off day. The point of this blog is that we have to start with the person in the mirror and then branch out from there. Peace.